2 Utah state workers under scrutiny in leak of ‘immigrants’ list
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah officials said Friday that they have identified at least two state workers who apparently accessed confidential documents to create a list of 1,300 purported illegal immigrants that was mailed to law enforcement officials and the news media.
Gov. Gary Herbert said the employees work for the Department of Workforce Services, which administers food stamp programs and other public benefits. The employees have been placed on administrative leave, and the state attorney general will determine whether to file criminal charges.
“It’s a very small group. The people we’ve identified certainly have some strong political opinions and seem to be frustrated with some of the issues around immigration,” said Kristen Cox, executive director for the department. “I think it’s an immense hypocrisy to talk about taking people to task for being illegal and doing so by breaking the law.”
Cox said most of the people are on the list because their children are receiving aid.
The list that was mailed contains Social Security numbers, birth dates, workplaces, addresses and phone numbers. Names of children are included, along with due dates of pregnant women.
Newspapers started receiving the list of names and personal information this week, and the ensuing publicity created widespread fear in the Hispanic community. The anonymous mailing said it also was sent to immigration officials.
The senders, who called themselves Concerned Citizens of the United States, demanded that those on the list be deported, although some named have said they are in the country legally.
“This tactic by these rogue employees to go out and to single out individuals and their families, in some cases falsely accusing people of an illegal status, is in fact deplorable,” Herbert said.
Cox said there might be a few more people implicated in the leak of the names, but she’s confident that the core group that is responsible has been identified.
Intentionally releasing a private record in Utah is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If someone stole such a record, it could be prosecuted as a felony with a penalty punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
“We will begin an immediate, aggressive, formal investigation,” Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff promised Friday on a conference call with national and local Hispanic leaders.
Shurtleff said he would seek the help of the U.S. attorney’s office. “We’re talking serious, felony-level crimes,” he said.
Hispanic advocates applauded how quickly the state has acted to find the source of the leak.
“The governor took the first step today to bring that trust back again,” said Tony Yapias, former director of the Office of Hispanic Affairs.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Workforce Services chief Kristen Cox criticized the employees who revealed the information.